Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 05/2008

Beyond the ABCs: Higher Education and Developing Countries - Working Paper 139

Megan Crowley, Devesh Kapur

February 2008

Center for Global Development


This new working paper by CGD non-resident fellow Devesh Kapur and his co-author Megan Crowley analyzes an often neglected facet of development--higher education. While higher education was in vogue in the 1950s and 1960s, it subsequently fell out of favor. The various development paradigms, from basic needs to rural development, structural adjustment and policy reform, had little place for higher education; and the recent emphasis on institutions also pays little heed to this subject.

Though crucial to building the human capital--the accountants, doctors, engineers, lawyers and teachers--that comprise the middle class, little is known about what is happening within universities and to the students who spend a considerable part of their prime years there. Furthermore, while the number of students and the money devoted to higher education in developing countries has grown, it is unclear how meaningful this growth is.

This paper addresses five broad questions: